Author, speaker, and blogger, Lori Holden, is currently raising her two kids in Denver, Colorado. She was honored in 2018 by the Congressional Coalition of Adoption Institute (CCAI), as well as by her senator, Michael Bennet, with an Angel in Adoption®Award for exploring the complexities of adoption through her work. Holden’s book, The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption, is on required and suggested reading lists at adoption agencies around the country.
You can find her at her award-winning blog at LavenderLuz.com.
What led you to becoming a writer?
I really like the process of clarity, facilitated through writing. Writing helps me articulate my thoughts and be really clear about what I am intending to express. This is especially true with writing for my blog, Lavender Luz, which allows for two-way interaction with my readers. Writing enables me to explore and understand something in a deeper way. It is a form of mindfulness, which reflects my core values and sense of purpose.
What compelled you to write about open adoption, specifically?
First of all, we needed an alternative to family building and so we explored the various avenues for different types of adoption through an agency in our community. At first, open adoption sounded a little freaky to us because of the idea of having another mom around and in our lives. However, ultimately, open adoption sounded whole to me, like we could give our child all their pieces.
What do you mean by open adoption being “whole” ?
What many of us know about adoption comes from the closed era. In those days of closed adoption, there was a prevalent trend of adoptive families denying that significant things had happened in their child’s past. It was considered shameful to be infertile or to have a baby out of wedlock, so it was an era in which secrecy prevailed. Adoptive parents wanted to smooth over all the facts that were either painful or considered shameful to create a “normal” family. The parents were well-intentioned for wanting to save the baby from stigma, but their actions were rooted in shame.
They would act as if families by adoption were no different from families by biology, and that seemed broken to me. You have to acknowledge that something happened when a child lost connection to biology. And a woman lost her baby, and maybe all involved lost some of their dreams. But people buried it and pretend it didn’t happen. People would go to great lengths, employing elaborate methods of denial, including faking pregnancies and stating false facts on birth certificates.
The result of the secrecy and denial is that there will be missing pieces in a child’s life, and there are consequences to ignoring those pieces: an “either-or” perspective emerges between adopted children’s current family and their past. This means that a child must deny part of themselves, which is damaging.
When the internet broke through, it allowed people like first parents and adoptees to join their voices together, and people came to realize that their negative experiences with adoption were not isolated after all. With this newfound openness a different narrative emerged: adoption in a more authentic form started to become normalized.
Even today, however, open adoption seems daunting to many. You ask yourself, “how could I possibly have another woman around and be ok?” and “If I’m not the only mom am I a realmom?” It definitely felt scary for me, but it allowed me to reframe adoption into what israther than trying to hide important pieces of the full picture for the sake of an ideal of what a family shouldlook like.
What is the significance of your book, “The Open- Hearted Way to Open Adoption: Helping Your Child Grow Up Whole”?
The idea to write the book sprang from the content of my blog and my interaction with readers. I wrote the book with my daughter’s birth mom, and we didn’t want it to be based on just one family’s experience with open adoption. We wanted to convey how openness in adoption can work for everyone, not just us. We also wanted to show how you can integrate openness into adoption even in the cases in which contact isn’t possible.
So we did ample research about other families, and this shifted our project from a memoir to a guide.
Can you expand on the idea of openness in any form of adoption?
Openness is not reliant on having contact. Openness has to do with mindfulness, dealing with “what is” in the moment. It is about taking our reactions and turning them into responses. That comes down to a matter of choice. Choosing words and behaviors, tuning into ourselves and our kids, so kids don’t have to deal with our stuff in addition to their stuff. We must join alongside our kids on their journeys, sitting with them in their sadness and through the challenges rather than trying to deny the hurt. Let them lead, especially when they are at the age to lead. By the time kids are nearing adulthood, the only real authority is that connection parents cultivate, which extends beyond adoption and into all aspects of parenting itself.
When you deny your child’s biological history, it is like erecting a wall between them and their roots. But when you do add in contact with biological family, that also invites complexity. At that point the wall then becomes a door.
However, a door isn’t good enough for our kiddos, either. Beyond open adoption, opennessin adoption is like a screen door in which you try to let in all the benefits, but also protect the child from anything that might be harmful or prematurely difficult. It involves doing what is called for in the moment, and figuring out what exactly that is
It’s helpful to think of contact with birth parents the way we think of contact with extended family members. For birthday parties, I invite my sisters and sister-in-law and all the people who are important to my kids. Viewing it this way, the love my children have for their first parents doesn’t subtract from the love they have for me. In open adoption, the math changes: it goes from subtraction and division to addition and multiplication.